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    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    Thomas Sutera: having fun and getting paid for it

    There is reasonable evidence that truth nowadays comes via popular vote. It’s common and accepted, or risks becoming fodder for all the Judgey McJudgersons out there who can turn busybodying into an Olympic sport.

    Thomas Sutera knows what they’re thinking about him: Isn’t it about time to go get a real job? You’re 27 now. You had your shot. This is what happens when others attempt to impose their truth on the Tom Suteras of the world, the people who play the best con game of all — having fun and getting paid for it.

    Sutera, the Waterford native who made it to Single A with the Phillies, was part of a champagne celebration Tuesday night in York, Pa., where the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League won the first half league championship. The guy his buddies call “Slendy” — he’s pretty much shaped like 6 o’clock — plays golf during the day, baseball at night and makes $2,000 a month doing it.

    And … loving it.

    “I look at it this way,” Sutera was saying by phone earlier this week. “Every day I’ve gotten to play baseball past high school is a bonus. I never thought it would happen. My agent said that with the draft coming up, things are pretty quiet as far as maybe a Major League team being interested. I’m looking at it now as playing baseball and having some fun. This is not the minors. We are here to win, not develop. We’re all kind of in the same boat.”

    Sutera graduated from Waterford High and then Siena College before signing as a free agent with the Phillies. He made Single (High) A with the Jersey Shore BlueClaws — he even struck out Chicago White Sox all star Luis Robert on a rehab assignment — before the dreaded arm pain.

    “I had Tommy John Surgery on March 2, 2022,” Sutera said. “I did most of my rehab at home. When I got back to camp, I got the old ‘you’re not where we hoped you’d be, best of luck.’”

    He was cut Feb. 20, 2023. Sutera, as everyone else in life does at some point, faced his Robert Frost Moment. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both …

    “It’s the equivalent of being fired at a regular job,” Sutera said. “It’s part of the deal. You see teammates get released. You kind of know when it’s your time. You get older and every year they bring in 30 new guys with the draft, you kind of see the writing on the wall.”

    But then after all the rehab work and no wife or children to support, Sutera saw his truth, much like Bluto Blutarsky: It wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and it ain’t over now.

    “I figured I’d try it one more year. This was last year, end of March,” Sutera said. “Last year was good. I hit some milestones. I went back to being a starter and threw most innings ever in a season (125.1) and was tied for third in wins (nine) in the league.

    “Look, nobody wants to be in independent ball. Everyone wants to get signed. But I saw some guys a lot better than I was last year not getting picked up. I switched my focus. I got through the season healthy.”

    Sutera is back to long relief and has a 3-1 record with a 2.43 earned run average this season, allowing but 22 hits in 29.2 innings.

    And if The Call never comes?

    “My parents and I have talked about it,” Sutera said. “My dad looks at me like ‘this is our last chance, so let’s keep pushing.’ Year to year basis. I always look at how I’m doing and whether I can compete at this level. Right now, it’s golf and baseball. It’s fantastic.”

    Sutera spent the offseason as a substitute teacher in Waterford. He ran the shot clock at the basketball games. Cut him open and he bleeds the blue hue of the 06385.

    “That’s how I was raised,” Sutera said. “You played town ball. Little League and Babe Ruth. For the high school. With your buddies. There’s a huge sense of loyalty. You see all the people who did it before you and what they got out of it. So why should I be different? It has created a winning culture all the way up through the high school.”

    Sutera, who gets high scores on the Personality-O-Meter, may be a teacher and coach when baseball ends. But like Sinatra, he’s doing it his way.

    “One thing I know,” Thomas Sutera said. “ I can’t see myself sitting behind a desk all day.”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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